This afternoon, I went to my friendly neighborhood convenience store for some caffeinated refreshment (if you’ve checked out my About tab, you’ll remember that I have a “wicked caffeine addiction”). While I was in the store, I overheard one of the two cashiers (loudly) remarking that she “didn’t trust the guy at Pump 4.” She was making a rather large spectacle about how people who drive that kind of vehicle (a white Jeep Cherokee) and wear camoflauge are just the type that might drive off without paying for their gas. Not exactly sure about her logic, and I was insulted FOR this guy, but intrigued nonetheless. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew the guy, or if he was a repeat offender. I slowly milled around the store, getting my drink, and meandered to the cashier so I could see if this guy would come in to pay for his gas. Of course, I really had no doubt, but I was even more curious to see how the cashier would treat the guy when he came in.
Fast-forward about 2 minutes: The guy DID come in, of course. And he promptly greeted the cashier with a friendly voice, paid for his gas, bought a lottery ticket, wished her a good afternoon, and left. Hmmm. I wanted to express my disappointment in her behavior – from both a customer service perspective and a DECENT HUMAN BEING perspective. But I didn’t…I just paid for my drink and left. It did get me thinking about how similar attitudes can plague a veteran trainer:
It’s easy to judge our training participants; to assume that we always know exactly what they need. After all, we’ve been training people for so long – surely we’ve seen all there is to see, right? We did a thorough Needs Analysis, so our content must be spot-on to what our audience is looking for! Not necessarily the case. All people are different. Their learning needs, learning styles, and motivators are different. We can use the best processes, technologies, and methods, and still not reach everyone in a way that is meaningful. How can we avoid assuming as we facilitate? I have a couple of ideas:
1) Take the time to get to know your participants. Talk to them. Make the most out of introductions, breaks, lunches, and energizers. Not only are you going to dig into their personalities and understand where they’re coming from a little better, but you’re also forming relationships that build rapport to make your content memorable long after the training session is over.
2) Find new ways of asking questions. Turn the reigns over to your participants – have THEM ask the questions to one another. Give them an exercise that stirs up thought-provoking questions AND answers. Thinking through real-life scenarios will send participants in a direction that lends itself to understanding and improved performance. And isn’t that what we’re really trying to accomplish?
So, today’s visit to the convenience store was ridiculous. I would love to find out who manages the training for that company, and provide that as an example of “What Not To Do” in their next customer service training class. But it was, indirectly, a good reminder of how we shouldn’t assume that we know it all.
Even when the learner is wearing camoflauge and drives a white Jeep Cherokee.